Seamus Power birdied four of his last six holes to get his season up and running in the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.
The West Waterford star (31) missed the cut in his first start of the 2018-19 campaign in California three weeks ago.
But he produced a fast finish at the Country Club of Jackson, carding a four-under 68 to finish the day just four shots behind leaders Cameron Champ and Norman Xiong on five-under par.
Californian prodigy Xiong (19) — winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award and Haskins Awards as the top amateur in college golf this year — added a 67 to his opening 68 and Champ shot 70 to lead by a shot from Shawn Stefani and Jonathan Byrd on nine-under par.
Power made three birdies and three bogeys in his first 12 holes but chipped in at the 13th for the first of a hattrick of birdies before rattling home a 26 footer for birdie at the 17th and a nine-footer to save par at the last.
Meanwhile, the Halloween horror arrived early for Rory McIlroy as Tony Finau produced all the fireworks at the WGC HSBC Champions in China.
One of the top American points scorers on his Ryder Cup debut, he's seeking his first win since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open and appears determined to get it this week.
As a listless McIlroy shot a five-over 77, racking up a triple bogey eight and a double bogey seven in his first eight holes to find himself 16 strokes off the pace on five-over, Finau (29) fired a five-under 67 to build a three-stroke lead over Tommy Fleetwood (68), Patrick Reed (72) and Justin Rose (67) on 11-under par. Scores
He's notch ten top-10 finishes so far this season without the reward of a title and knows he can't afford to take his size 14 1/2 shoes off the gas just yet.
"I've got to stay in attack mode, continue to make birdies," Finau said of his gameplan. "And if I limit the mistakes, I think it will be a good weekend.”
Rose is looking to retain the title, and while he might have enough with a runner-up finish to regain the world number one ranking from Brooks Koepka, who is tied 40th on two-over after a 74, he's feeling confident after a bogey-free 67.
As for McIlroy, who is a distant fourth in the Race to Dubai, he had to make an eight-footer just to bogey the first, then ran up a triple bogey eight at the par-five second when he airmailed the green with a short iron and found water.
After a penalty drop, he then duffed his fourth and saw it run back into the lake before taking three more to get down from the water’s edge.
Struggling on the greens and erratic off the tee, he bogeyed the seventh and double bogeyed the par-five eighth to be seven-over for the day before chipping in for his first birdie at the ninth.
Out in six-over 42, he had three birdies and two bogeys on the back nine to end the day tied for 58th on five-over.
Meanwhile, Muskerry's Niall Turner was 13 shots behind Thailand's Suradit Yongcharoenchai and Bangladesh's Siddikur Rahman as he shot 74 to make the two-over cut with nothing to spare at the Asian Tour's Panasonic Open India at Delhi Golf Club.
In the 54-hole European Men's Club Trophy at Golf du Médoc Resort, Portmarnock's Geoff Lenehan, Darragh Coghlan and Stephen Walsh were level for the day and lying 15th on nine-over through 14 holes of the fog-delayed second round, 23 strokes behind English champions Castle Royle, when play was suspended due to darkness.